Perseverance Mars rover sets off on its first mission, to boldly drill and return samples as no rover has drilled before

All systems check out, it's time to science the s**t out of Mars

NASA has finished the Perseverance Mars rover's post-landing shakedown and the vehicle has therefore embarked on its first sample collection mission, the space agency confirmed on Wednesday.

The six-wheeled nuclear-powered vehicle has been shuffling about the Jezero crater testing its instruments since it landed in February. Perseverance tested its hardware and shepherded the world’s first interplanetary helicopter, Ingenuity, sending it zipping through the Martian atmosphere.

Now it's on the move for the main game: exploring Mars.

“We are putting the rover’s commissioning phase as well as the landing site in our rearview mirror and hitting the road,” said Jennifer Trosper, the Perseverance Project Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“Over the next several months, Perseverance will be exploring a 1.5-square-mile [4-square-kilometre] patch of crater floor. It is from this location that the first samples from another planet will be collected for return to Earth by a future mission.”

The 1025kg (2,260lb) geologist-on-wheels has been sent to explore two geologic features in the crater that scientists have singled out: “The Crater Floor Fractured Rough,” in pockmarked bedrock of Jezero, and “Séítah” (a word that means “amidst the sand” in the Navajo language), an area that contains layers of rock, sand dunes, and ridges.

“Starting with the Crater Floor Fractured Rough and Séítah geologic units allows us to start our exploration of Jezero at the very beginning,” said Kevin Hand, an astrobiologist also working at JPL, co-leading Perseverance's first science campaign.

“This area was under at least 100 metres [328 feet] of water 3.8 billion years ago. We don’t know what stories the rocks and layered outcrops will tell us, but we’re excited to get started.”

Using cameras, spectrometers, and a laser, Perseverance will find four locations across these two features that are the most geologically interesting. When it finds the perfect spot, the rover will drill into the Martian matter and bottle up a sample of the rock’s core.

Depending on how interesting these units are, Perseverance will extract up to eight rock or dust samples. It has a total of 43 sampling tubes to scoop the finest Martian dirt. After it inspects the locations and bags up the goodies, it will have traveled somewhere between 1.6 to 3.1 miles (2.5 to 5 kilometres) and return to its landing site.

After some systems checks, Perseverance will get ready for the second stage, when Mission Control will send it to Jezero’s delta region — an area shaped like a fan that scientists reckon will be rich in ancient carbonates and minerals. Samples collected here may contain fossilised microbes or rocky deposits created from previous biological processes leftover after the liquid in the crater dried out.

No China crisis

Meanwhile, the US has released the first images of China's first Martian lander and its solar-powered rover

On June 6 the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped China’s rover Zhurong and the Tianwen-1 lander on Mars’s southern Utopia Planitia. The orbiter also snapped pictures of the lander's parachute and heat shield.


Red china, Red Planet. Click to enlarge

In the upper right, the lander can be seen between the two blast patterns from its landing rockets from when the vehicle touched down. The Zhurong rover is a little to the south and is now roaming around the large impact basin, where it'll be trying to find liquid water. ®

Other stories you might like

  • Despite 'key' partnership with AWS, Meta taps up Microsoft Azure for AI work
    Someone got Zuck'd

    Meta’s AI business unit set up shop in Microsoft Azure this week and announced a strategic partnership it says will advance PyTorch development on the public cloud.

    The deal [PDF] will see Mark Zuckerberg’s umbrella company deploy machine-learning workloads on thousands of Nvidia GPUs running in Azure. While a win for Microsoft, the partnership calls in to question just how strong Meta’s commitment to Amazon Web Services (AWS) really is.

    Back in those long-gone days of December, Meta named AWS as its “key long-term strategic cloud provider." As part of that, Meta promised that if it bought any companies that used AWS, it would continue to support their use of Amazon's cloud, rather than force them off into its own private datacenters. The pact also included a vow to expand Meta’s consumption of Amazon’s cloud-based compute, storage, database, and security services.

    Continue reading
  • Atos pushes out HPC cloud services based on Nimbix tech
    Moore's Law got you down? Throw everything at the problem! Quantum, AI, cloud...

    IT services biz Atos has introduced a suite of cloud-based high-performance computing (HPC) services, based around technology gained from its purchase of cloud provider Nimbix last year.

    The Nimbix Supercomputing Suite is described by Atos as a set of flexible and secure HPC solutions available as a service. It includes access to HPC, AI, and quantum computing resources, according to the services company.

    In addition to the existing Nimbix HPC products, the updated portfolio includes a new federated supercomputing-as-a-service platform and a dedicated bare-metal service based on Atos BullSequana supercomputer hardware.

    Continue reading
  • In record year for vulnerabilities, Microsoft actually had fewer
    Occasional gaping hole and overprivileged users still blight the Beast of Redmond

    Despite a record number of publicly disclosed security flaws in 2021, Microsoft managed to improve its stats, according to research from BeyondTrust.

    Figures from the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) show last year broke all records for security vulnerabilities. By December, according to pentester Redscan, 18,439 were recorded. That's an average of more than 50 flaws a day.

    However just 1,212 vulnerabilities were reported in Microsoft products last year, said BeyondTrust, a 5 percent drop on the previous year. In addition, critical vulnerabilities in the software (those with a CVSS score of 9 or more) plunged 47 percent, with the drop in Windows Server specifically down 50 percent. There was bad news for Internet Explorer and Edge vulnerabilities, though: they were up 280 percent on the prior year, with 349 flaws spotted in 2021.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022